In a letter to all lifeguard colleagues, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung, said the department attached much importance to manpower requirements at swimming pools and beaches and explained in depth the work done and plans made to tackle the issues on all fronts. She also appealed to colleagues to put public interest at the forefront, stand steadfast in their duties and demonstrate their professionalism so that members of the public could have a great day enjoying the free swimming pool facilities on Sport for All Day to be held on August 5.
In response to the recent appeal by the Hong Kong & Kowloon Life Guards' Union to its members to stage a strike on Sport for All Day on August 5 (Sunday) to protest against the shortage of lifeguard manpower at swimming pools and beaches, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) proactively arranged to meet union representatives on July 20 and July 24 to understand and respond actively to their requests.
Mrs Fung stressed that the safety of swimmers would always come first in determining the level of manpower of lifeguards. The department would ensure that each and every swimming pool and beach be manned by a sufficient number of lifeguards to meet operational needs and to ensure the safety of swimmers.
In reviewing the manpower requirement of lifeguards for swimming pools and beaches, the department will take into consideration the actual operational needs and latest usage rates of the facilities for adjusting and reallocating the manpower resources of lifeguards annually. In considering the manpower adjustment, the department will listen to the views of the unions, the staff and the Hong Kong Life Saving Society.
Currently LCSD employs 1,958 lifeguards, of whom 921 are seasonal lifeguards. They provide life saving services to 41 public swimming pools, 36 public beaches and five water sports centres under the purview of LCSD. Over the past two years, the manpower of the department has substantially increased. The number of lifeguards in the civil service establishment has increased by 218 persons, representing an increase of 26% compared to the original establishment. The number of seasonal lifeguards employed has also increased by 65 persons, reaching the present level of 921 in July.
Regarding this year's review, after heeding the views of the district staff and unions and taking into account the actual operational needs of each swimming pool and beach, the department will further hire an additional 50 seasonal lifeguards from August 1 to reinforce life saving services in 12 swimming pools and 16 beaches. The additional 50 lifeguards represents an increase of 5% compared to the original number of seasonal lifeguards.
In addition, the department will also recruit another 200 temporary lifeguards on Sport for All Day on August 5 to reinforce the lifeguard service at swimming pools and to relieve lifeguards' work pressure on the day.
Apart from the above short-term measures, Mrs Fung said the department had committed to further review the operational needs of all swimming pools and beaches by considering the environmental circumstances of each and every facility and if there was a genuine need, the department would strive to bid for additional resources to further increase the number of lifeguards.
With regard to the union's request to adopt a uniform ratio in each facility, Mrs Fung said frankly that it would be difficult for the department to commit to such a massive scale increase of over 400 lifeguards within the timeframe of two weeks as set by the union and without looking at the operational needs and justifications.
"However, we have pledged to follow up the union's request to review the actual manpower requirement in each facility. We will assess the actual requirement in each swimming pool and beach by considering the circumstances of each facility according to the guiding principle of ensuring swimmer safety and appropriate utilisation of public resources.
"In the review process, we will keep in close dialogue with the union and the staff and listen to their views and suggestions, with a view to working out mutually agreeable arrangements," she added.
Mrs Fung noted that Sport for All Day on August 5 is a popular annual event when the public could enjoy various sports facilities for free including swimming pools. She appealed to lifeguard colleagues to put public interest first, to continue to be steadfast in their duties and to demonstrate their professionalism so that members of the public could enjoy the free swimming pool facilities on Sport for All Day.
Ends/Friday, July 27, 2012